Festina lente

Over the past several months, I have enjoyed the regular column in Newsweek entitled “My Favorite Mistake”. Recently, David Duchovny (of The X-Files fame) was interviewed. I found his article amazingly compelling. He referenced a teacher he had in high school, Mr. Rogers (no reference to the TV afternoon children’s program host) who taught him Latin. David had injured himself, was admitted into the hospital, and Mr. Rogers came to visit him. While there, he imparted this advice: “Don’t come back too soon.” At the time, he mused, he did not know what to think of this advice, as he was captain of the basketball team and wanted to get back as quickly as he could. Fast forward many years later, he was working incredibly hard, pushing himself from all angles, overworked and just not seeing the fruits of his labors. He was wondering…what have I done?! He thought he had blown it! He was in the wrong field, at the wrong time, and he had really made the wrong choice with his life and career.

How many of us have been there…or are there?

David proceeded to share that part of life often means letting things happen organically as opposed to forcing them. He offered a relevant Latin term, Festina Lente, which means make haste slowly. The actual application of this phrase is that our work needs to be approached with the proper balance of urgency and diligence. If tasks are rushed too quickly then mistakes are made and good long-term results are not achieved. Work is best done in a state of flow – when we are in the zone – when we are fully engaged by the task and there is no sense of time passing.

This concept really resonated with me. As an ambitious entrepreneur trying to build a business and contribute in a unique and compelling way, it can be frustrating when things don’t happen when I want them to and at the level at which I want them. At times, frankly, I find this incredibly difficult, when I see others moving seemingly effortlessly in their corporate positions or stable “recession-proof” practices.

So, what are a few actions we can incorporate in our day to slow down, let go, and trust that all will indeed play out exactly as they are supposed to – whether we are embarking on a new corporate promotion, in a job transition, or trying to build a business from the back of a napkin?

1. Find 10 minutes to be quiet and to be grateful. Take a walk. Pray. Meditate. Look out the window. Or just “be” in a chair. Turn off the radio and cell phone in the car. (I have found this to be a miracle respite – whether just driving to Tom Thumb or to Arkansas to see my parents – the quiet is liberating.) We can always find those who have more than we do, and those that have less than we do; the secret is to be grateful for what we do have. Sometimes this is easier said than done…we have been given so much we can often take for granted.

2. Read The Dip by Seth Godin. A friend recommended this to me recently, as I am a huge fan of Seth’s and yet, for some reason, this book slipped by me. This book is filled with common sense  – sometimes we just need to hear it from someone else’s voice. When do we stick? When do we cut the chord? Great, easy read – which provides an inspirational mirror test on when to fish or cut bait.

3. Take a break – a real unplugged vacation. Enough said.

4. Look the tiger in the eye, and if things are not working the way we are pursuing them, be willing to shift approaches. How else could I view this opportunity? What is forcing me to play by everyone else’s rules? Is there a new way for me to approach the situation? How can I optimize what I bring to the table, in a unique way?

5. And finally, embrace the unplanned mistakes and road bumps. Those incidental situations are not incidental. What am I supposed to be learning or paying attention to? Remember, it can be either a whisper or a two-by-four. I have had my share of both, and I much prefer the whisper…if I would only listen.

What tips do you have to lean into a challenging situation? When have you experienced make haste slowly in your life? We would love to hear…

8 responses to “Festina lente

  1. How true! And, sadly, a lot of whispers have turned into two-by-fours lately in my life which is causing me to say, “I GET IT!” Thanks for the great article today, Kristin. What a wonderful way to start the week!

  2. Thank you, Jennifer, for your comment! Too often it does take the ‘two by four’ to get our attention…..yet, as long as we ‘do it’ once we have been awakened…..that is the real take-away! Make it a great week.

  3. Kristin,
    This was a message at the right time for me. Having reached a place in my career where I am learning new skills that I will only use for about the next the next ten years I feel a real need to push and get as much done as I can. It’s great to be reminded to “make haste slowly”.

  4. Thanks for this thoughtful commentary. Festina Lente was my high school motto, and–not kiding here–our school mascot was the snail. While not the most intimidating mascot (go go escargot!), it was an apt lesson for teenagers to absorb. As an aside, the school slogan was “function in disaster, finish in style.” I have not heard anyone use the expression festina lente since my highschool days. Thanks for the great reminder!

  5. This article reminds me of a great book I read long ago by George Leonard on the art of Mastery. In short, there are periods of time when after a steep learning ascent which felt great, we hit the a plateau that feels like stagnation and defeat, only to be followed eventually by the next ascent that comes when its ready to come and not before. Mastery requires that we learn to love the plateaus and not be so frustrated with them that we quit prematurely.

    This process applies to a great many things we do or attempt to do in life, and your article reminds me that as you said, progress cannot be forced, and we need both the discipline and the open mindedness to allow it to happen in the right time. Mastering the martial arts, acting, or some aspect of business, all fall neatly into this process of achieving, stagnation, achieving, stagnation, and eventually mastery. Its all about the journey while keeping the far off destination in mind.

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